Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Technology and Literacy

I have a blog, a facebook account, do my banking and bill-paying online, I can buy an entire outfit online for less than $30... so I'd say I can do most things online that I do in my everyday life. Even in the classroom, I am finding more ways to incorporate technology to help all learners succeed. I guess you could say I am a digital native. But, I can't take all the credit for teaching myself. Through my special education courses, and elementary education courses I have learned the many advantages to using technology in the classroom. As Gail Thompkin's definition of 'emergent literacy' encompasses the perspective on how children learn to read and write, my own definition would be much broader. 

As previously discussed, literacy is more than just the ability to read and write - it also includes the ability to implement and use technology to be a successful, contributing member to society. With technology advancing at such a rate, we, as educators need to keep up with the changes and understand how our students are learning and interacting outside of the classroom. One speaker who came to my special education course last semester, showed us how she uses a chat-room based web site to engage her learners outside of the classroom. The students are using the site to further their knowledge in mathematics and required to discuss a solution to a given problem, comment on another student's solution, and offer an example problem. Not only are they reading, comprehending, expanding their vocabulary, writing/typing and applying their understanding of English spelling, they are interacting in a discussion with their peers! 

Just like we need a balanced diet - Thompkins' has 10 categories that should be satisfied for a child's literacy development. 
  • Reading (text, books on tape, websites, closed captions...ect
  • Phonics (phonemic awareness, print concepts...ect)
  • Strategies (identification of words, comprehension, and spelling as they learn to read and write)
  • Vocabulary (understanding and expanding on their own orally and written) 
  • Comprehension (understanding, applying and predicting - based on material)
  • Literature (reading a variety of books, chapter books, picture books, magazines)
  • Content-Area Study (applying their understanding and knowledge of 'language arts' to their other subject areas in school - ex: social studies and science)
  • Oral Language (Talking with peers, discussing ideas, expanding vocabulary)
  • Writing (handwriting, spelling, conveying ideas... ect)
  • Spelling (reflecting their phonics knowledge, and applying the rules of English language)
Although students may not be conscious of it, all 10 of these items (or most of them) are satisfied when the students are interacting in the chat-room based website. Not only are they interacting and building social relationships with their peers, they are also engaging in learning! 

Technology is a useful tool in helping our students build and shape their own knowledge. As teachers - we need to help bridge the gap between our students environment inside the classroom and their outside life. One way we can do this is through the use and implementation of technology within our own classrooms. 


  1. I like how you mentioned the ten categories from Thompkins. You also expressed that most of the categories are met by interactive chat rooms. Although it isn't exactly the same topic as your blog, it made me think of a question/comment. I remember in middle school, my teachers hated the idea of us using chatrooms because it developed a type of cybertalk. When writing papers, words like because turned into cuz or girls into gurlz. Even with text messaging becoming more popular with younger children, what effect do you think this plays on the 10 categories from Thompkins? What would she say? Just wondering :)

  2. First off, I am one of the worst spellers EVER - so cybertalk or text talk doesn't bother me... as long as they are used for those purposes ONLY. I don't think it is appropriate for anyone to use BRB or OMG in a paper that they would hand in.

    I feel that oral language, spelling and writing would be the categories that Thompkin's may be concerned with in relation to cyber/text talk. But, overall, I am much more of a supporter of expanding on ideas and understanding themes than I am on being nick-picky about someone's spelling and punctuation. Yes, I do value grammar and sentence structure - but essentially we are teaching our students how to connect ideas and information previously learned to new content and their own life.

  3. Not only are spelling and writing concerns with "cyber talk" but also sentence structure and verb agreements. Many times sentences and statements do not make sense in "cyber talk" when converted into actual text. Cyber talk should be allowed in things such as blogs for classrooms or text messages, but the difference between cyber talk and correct grammatical English should be noted, used and taught.